The conflict between science and religion seems indelible, even eternal. Surely two such divergent views of the universe have always been in fierce opposition? Actually, that’s not the case, says Peter Harrison: our very concepts of science and religion are relatively recent, emerging only in the past three hundred years, and it is those very categories, rather than their underlying concepts, that constrain our understanding of how the formal study of nature relates to the religious life.
In The Territories of Science and Religion, Harrison dismantles what we think we know about the two categories, then puts it all back together again in a provocative, productive new way. By tracing the history of these concepts for the first time in parallel, he illuminates alternative boundaries and little-known relations between them—thereby making it possible for us to learn from their true history, and see other possible ways that scientific study and the religious life might relate to, influence, and mutually enrich each other.
A tour de force by a distinguished scholar working at the height of his powers, The Territories of Science and Religion promises to forever alter the way we think about these fundamental pillars of human life and experience.
Harrison, professor of the history of science at the University of Queensland, argues that present conceptions of science and religion as opposing disciplines have been anachronistically mapped onto the past, and that their relationship was much more intimately connected in earlier Western understandings. In their original usage, "religio" and "scientia" were not doctrines or claims of knowledge as they're now understood, but rather descriptions of ethical life centering on mental habits, spiritual interior formation, and dispositions. To be "religious" and/or "scientific" meant that one was concerned with the moral implications of reading the universe and practicing the habits required to exercise those different ethics. Harrison masterfully traces the delicate history between religio and scientia to their modern conceptions, unearthing their relationships to auxiliary disciplines such as theology, natural philosophy, and hermeneutics. Harrison's work is an admirable contribution to the history of science and religion. Though it's aimed mainly at an academic audience, general readers will also be interested in this analysis and its challenges to assumptions about both disciplines.